One of the things I really look forward to during my trips to Manila is the culinary experience that it entails, given the gastronomic offerings available. I had the good fortune of visiting Elias twice this trip, and here are a few of the yummy delights we got to sample.
First of all, thanks to my good friend Ces who brought me here during our first night together.
The restaurant describes itself as “Turn of the century Filipino dining – a trademark that is only Chef Florabel Co Yatco’s.
Elias is a mélange of an elegant Filipino home during the Spanish colonial period, and a modern, classy Filipino restaurant of the 21st century.”
The restaurant decor is reminiscent of a rustic ancestral home bordering on “almost modern” but not quite. It is dated but not “great grandmother old”. The dishes are a creative play on characters and elements related to the period of Elias of Noli Me Tangere, Jose Rizal’s famous novel.
For my first dinner, Ces implored me to try the Munggo de Mariano which is lentil soup with chicharon (pork rinds) and tuyo fillet (smoked herring flakes). I am not really a fan of lentil soup but I loved this one — probably because of all the crunch and flavor brought in by the chicharon. For our main course, we had the Leandro which is Laing with Lechon Kawali (pictured below) and Joaquin or Tender Bulalo with Mushroom Gravy. (Much like the Bulalo Steak made famous by another local chain of restaurants.) We were too full to have dessert.For Chrismas day, Mom, my sister, Offie, my brother Nikki, Angelo and I went out for dinner after a long day of cooking and serving lunch to our guests and I brought them to Elias for a different set of dishes.
My sister picked this Oyster appetizer, Elias’ Choice, pictured above, which is baked oyster with garlic and cheese. (Oyster Rockefeller Elias Style?) I would have gladly sampled it but I had just undergone some dermatologic procedures which required me to stay away from seafood at least until the “wounds” on my face healed.)
Nikki chose the Emilio which was actually Beef Morcon cooked in Classic Tomato Sauce. I didn’t get to try this dish but it got Nikki’s seal of approval and that’s good enough for me.
Now, when I see that a restaurant offers special rice dishes, I try to sample it as a way of testing the mettle of the chef as far as coming up with simple yet complimentary flavors to the dishes his or her restaurant offers. We picked the Adobo Rice which was hands down a great pairing to any of the dishes next to plain white rice and the old reliable garlic rice. It had very subtle flavors which was the way it should be as it was not being offered as a rice viand, but rather as some form of “flavored” or “seasoned rice”.
One rule of thumb I’ve followed through the years is to try a common dish associated with the cuisine a new restaurant I’m trying is known for to use it as a point of reference in comparison to something I’m familiar with. How can you go wrong with Sinigang Gomez which is good old Sinigang na Baboy sa Sampalok or Pork Sinigang with Tamarind Soup. Authentic and soured appropriately — although Mom found it too maasim or tart. I was quite happy with it.
My personal choice for an entree was the Lengua Laruja which I was hoping to sample from the classic Casa Marcos, but their only remaining branch was at the Fort which was much too far to go to on a holiday evening like Christmas. I had no complaints for the Elias version because it was soft and tender and the sauce was perfect to a T.
It was a busy night for the restaurant and as luck would have it, we were seated next to the dessert display, and one particular dessert was calling out to me. Narcissa, Crisostomo’s Favorite which is Quezo de Bola Cheesecake was a perfect way to cap our sumptuous dinner. This, alone, is worth going to Elias for.
Kudos, Chef Florabel! Thanks for a memorable trip home.